Album reviews: Barb Jungr, Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey, Sam Bailey, The Hold Steady, Seun Kuti + Egypt 80, Jimi Goodwin

 

Barb Jungr Hard Rain (Kristalyn)

Having established herself as one of the most imaginative of Dylan interpreters, Barb Jungr here extends her expertise to incorporate the Leonard Cohen catalogue, combining six songs from Dylan’s protest period with five of Cohen’s intriguing, compassionate reflections.

It’s a masterclass in the value of interpretive liberty, with songs transformed in almost revelatory manner. Cohen’s commemorative “Who By Fire” acquires a brooding menace  in alluring guise, becoming a death-song delivered as by a stealthy serpent. And the alliance of Clive Bell’s shakuhachi flute with Simon Wallace’s jazz piano arrangements opens up “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War”: in the former, the yearning breath of woodwind subtly emphasises the wistful air of battered hope in Jungr’s inflections, while the latter becomes a coolly desolate declamation, rather than a vengeful diatribe.

Likewise, the undulating piano of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” helps lubricate her tone of determination tempered with despair, and the languid treatment of “First We Take Manhattan” replaces the military manner of Cohen’s original with a dreamer’s fantasy.

It’s not always successful: the jaunty delivery of “Everybody Knows” underplays its mordant irony, and the urgent flood of “It’s Alright Ma” doesn’t really lend itself to Jungr’s blithe intonation. Better by far is “Chimes of Freedom”, which offers an elegant expansion of the song’s blend of spartan tone and florid poetics.

The best of the Cohen interpretations utilise the compassion in Jungr’s voice, particularly “Land of Plenty” and “1000 Kisses Deep”, the latter’s mélange of desire and despair beautifully captured in the quiet, intimate treatment.  As with the album generally, it’s a subtle balance of hot and cold, a work of fiery cool.

****

Download: Blowin’ in the Wind; Who By Fire; First We Take Manhattan; 1000 Kisses Deep

Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey Going Back Home (Chess)

If Going Back Home turns out to be Wilko Johnson’s last album then it’s a great final curtain. Recorded with his Blockhead rhythm section of drummer Dylan Howe and bassist Norman Watt-Roy, choice selections from the guitarist’s back catalogue are augmented by a lone cover, of Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”. Save for the maudlin ballad “Turned 21”, it’s stuffed with brusque Wilko R&B cuts, with brilliantly condensed, biting fills chopped out in tracks like “Some Kind of Hero” and “Ice on the Motorway”, where the guitarist’s trademark slashing, staccato riffs evoke echoes of R&B pioneers Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Ike Turner. For his part, Daltrey matches Johnson every step of the way, fighting his corner just as fiercely as in his dayjob.

****

Download: Going Back Home; I Keep It to Myself; Some Kind Of Hero; Sneaking Suspicion

Sam Bailey The Power of Love (Syco)

Sam Bailey’s victory was the biggest foregone conclusion in the history of The X Factor, but even that predictability pales in comparison to her debut album, which simply presses the same button over and over again – the kind of overwrought belting that irons out any emotional wrinkles, but passes for great singing on TV talent shows. The material plays directly to this formula – the hit “Skyscraper”, covers of Jennifer Rush’s “The Power of Love”, Brenda Russell’s “Get Here”, and a duet with Michael Bolton on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that, compared  to the joyous original, sounds more like mutual torture. Supertramp’s “Lord Is It Mine”,  a favourite of Bailey’s late father, is the joker in this pack – but  even that is ploughed into an identical furrow.

**

Download: Skyscraper; Lord Is It Mine

The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams (Washington Square)

Reconstituted with a brawny two-guitar attack, The Hold Steady return with another portfolio of dirty-realist tableaux in Teeth Dreams. The characters peopling songs like “The Ambassador” and the drug-dazed “Oaks” are low on trust, heavy on foreboding. But there’s a doughty perseverance about them, whether it’s the girl “two years off some prairie town” diving into big-city nightlife in “Spinners”, or the struggling small-time drug-dealer “waking up with that American Sadness” in “On with the Business”. “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” is the album’s most complete and striking piece, its protagonist looking up old friends to find they’ve turned into survivalists with bulletproof vests and bunker mentalities: the dark underbelly of the American Dream, laid bare and raw-nerved. 

****

Download: I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You; On with the Business; Oaks

Seun Kuti + Egypt 80 A Long Way to the Beginning (Knitting Factory)

As with his older brother Femi, Seun Kuti’s work is effectively a direct extension of his father’s musical style and political beliefs – especially so in Seun’s case, given he now fronts Fela’s old band. A strong thread of anti-corporate, anti-corruption liberation ideology runs through A Long Way to the Beginning, with songs  such as “African Smoke” and “African Airways” offering metaphors for post-colonial control. Criticising the use of Chinese engines, Western pilots and World Bank radar, the latter characterises “Flight AA IOU” as directionless: “we no know where we dey go, so bad navigation no matter”. Throughout the album, the classic ebullient horn-riffing Afrobeat is augmented with prominent clipped rhythm guitar grooves, nowhere more powerfully than on “IMF”

***

Download: IMF; African Airways; Kalakuta Boy

Jimi Goodwin Odludek (Heavenly)

Doves frontman Jimi Goodwin makes the classic solo-album mistake with Odludek: buoyed by the realisation that he can do it all himself, he then goes and does it all himself, with no outsider input to rein in his indulgences. The result is an ambitious, varied, but largely unlovable work, its individual songs crammed with too many divergent ideas. Opener “Terracotta Warrior” is typical: a big, repeated fuzz-guitar monochord heralds a morass of guitar arpeggios, double drum tracks and orchestral arrangement – an absorbing production through which it’s hard to discern the lyrical thrust of Goodwin’s search for “the elemental force”. The best stuff here is the simplest, Goodwin’s hunt for passion and empathy in “Oh! Whiskey” built around acoustic guitar and harmonica, and the cycling arpeggios that bind together his tribute to “Didsbury Girl”. 

**

Download: Oh! Whiskey; Hope; Didsbury Girl

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week